Author Topic: Improvisation (the next step up)  (Read 6536 times)

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Offline SlideMeister

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Improvisation (the next step up)
« on: July 13, 2020, 03:15:58 PM »
Very simply put, I think the next step up up from playing all the right notes in the right order, is of course, adding and incorporating some of your own notes. If they don't sound good, it's gibberish, if they do sound good, it's improvisation.

What do you think?

Offline Gnarly He Man

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2020, 03:34:10 PM »
One man's gibberish is another man's brilliance.
"Chinese Music", sez Louis Armstrong, the man who invented the idea of a jazz soloist.

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2020, 03:45:43 PM »
Very simply put, I think the next step up up from playing all the right notes in the right order, is of course, adding and incorporating some of your own notes. If they don't sound good, it's gibberish, if they do sound good, it's improvisation.

What do you think?

If you will pardon the pun it "sounds good to me".  :)

Offline Grizzly

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2020, 03:47:46 PM »
Improvisation predates jazz by about 5 centuries. The same rules, as expressed by Age, apply.

Tom
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Offline Aluvsupreme

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2020, 04:14:38 PM »
I enjoy improvising playing solo.  But improvising with harmony over the chord changes is still  out of my reach. One day.           Brian

Offline Gnarly He Man

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2020, 04:26:07 PM »
Improvisation predates jazz by about 5 centuries.
Or more, yes?

Offline ejacob4

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2020, 05:35:39 PM »
It stands to reason that all composition begins as improvisation, and always did. If improvisation is the music not yet played or written, yet, Then the Theme, Connection, spark, image, or idea is improvisation, the playing or writing, the development of the idea, is composition.

That’s how it works with writing, or any of it worth reading anyway.

Best regards,
Ed

Offline SlimHeilpern

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2020, 06:26:31 PM »
It stands to reason that all composition begins as improvisation, and always did. If improvisation is the music not yet played or written, yet, Then the Theme, Connection, spark, image, or idea is improvisation, the playing or writing, the development of the idea, is composition.

That’s how it works with writing, or any of it worth reading anyway.

Best regards,
Ed

Sort of, but I think there's a difference between composition and improvising. Improvising is essentially composition in real time. I can compose solos that are much better than my improvised ones because I have the time to think through each phrase. I like the Miriam Webster definition of improvise: "create and perform (music, drama, or verse) spontaneously or without preparation", I think that sums it up nicely.

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Offline SlimHeilpern

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2020, 06:28:39 PM »
Very simply put, I think the next step up up from playing all the right notes in the right order, is of course, adding and incorporating some of your own notes. If they don't sound good, it's gibberish, if they do sound good, it's improvisation.

What do you think?

I'd say that if it was spontaneous and original, it's improvised, not matter what it sounded like. :-)

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Offline The Lone Harper

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2020, 08:17:11 PM »
I've been looking for a quote from Oscar Peterson about his thoughts on improvisation and I'll be darned if I can find it, but if my memory serves me correctly it was something along the lines of there is no wrong improvisation, just whether the improvisation is in good or bad taste. I guess it's the difference between sounding like the player is saying something that sounds musical or they are playing something that just sounds like a meaningless group of random notes. Personal taste comes in to this of course in regard to what sounds good and what doesn't. A lot of modern jazz improvisation that critics rave over does absolutely nothing for me.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2020, 08:19:45 PM by The Lone Harper »
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Offline Grizzly

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2020, 10:53:34 PM »
It stands to reason that all composition begins as improvisation, and always did. If improvisation is the music not yet played or written, yet, Then the Theme, Connection, spark, image, or idea is improvisation, the playing or writing, the development of the idea, is composition.

That’s how it works with writing, or any of it worth reading anyway.

Best regards,
Ed

Sort of, but I think there's a difference between composition and improvising. Improvising is essentially composition in real time. I can compose solos that are much better than my improvised ones because I have the time to think through each phrase. I like the Miriam Webster definition of improvise: "create and perform (music, drama, or verse) spontaneously or without preparation", I think that sums it up nicely.

- Slim
Yeah. But: Some people work out their improvs on the fly, but then repeat them on subsequent performances, amirite? Also: There are certain conventions, or rules, that an improvisors abide by, like following the chord progressions, or playing set riffs. There's mention of pentatonic scales as a template, for instance.

There are similarities from earlier eras. Bass lines and chord progressions were predetermined, and the internal voice leading was expected to mimic somewhat the patterns found in the melody, but each keyboardist had some latitude in how they combined things. And like jazz, the soloist could embellish the melody in creative ways.

Some, but not all, parallels to jazz, but improvisation (with rules) nevertheless.

And preparation. :)

Tom
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Offline smojoe

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2020, 11:01:56 PM »
Gnarley sez: More?  answer? Yes.

It was 4241bc. Someone wrote that down.
Jo-hotep was sitting by the river Nile playing his new tune: 'See you later alligator' on his snoot flute.
He decided to write it down for future posterity. He took a fresh not quite set-up camel chip and using a stylus made from a papyrus reed carved his tune into it. THIS was a composition. On the flip side he wrote his other tune: 'After while crocodile'.

Unfortunately a few days later when he wanted to play his tune for friends, he found that a scarab dung beetle had chewed away
some of his composition. He proceeded to play the tune and when he got to the missing parts, he IMPROVISED. He played notes extemporaneously and spontaneously without knowing if the notes were his original notes.

Jo-sir


Offline Gnarly He Man

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2020, 11:28:43 PM »
Gnarley sez: More?  answer? Yes.

It was 4241bc. Someone wrote that down.
Jo-hotep was sitting by the river Nile playing his new tune: 'See you later alligator' on his snoot flute.
He decided to write it down for future posterity. He took a fresh not quite set-up camel chip and using a stylus made from a papyrus reed carved his tune into it. THIS was a composition. On the flip side he wrote his other tune: 'After while crocodile'.

Unfortunately a few days later when he wanted to play his tune for friends, he found that a scarab dung beetle had chewed away
some of his composition. He proceeded to play the tune and when he got to the missing parts, he IMPROVISED. He played notes extemporaneously and spontaneously without knowing if the notes were his original notes.

Jo-sir
And now you know...
The REST of the story.

Offline Penguin

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #13 on: July 13, 2020, 11:49:33 PM »
Amen Age.

Marc

Offline SlimHeilpern

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #14 on: July 13, 2020, 11:50:03 PM »
Yeah. But: Some people work out their improvs on the fly, but then repeat them on subsequent performances, amirite?
...

Sure, but the way I see it, playing something that you've improvised before, by definition, would not be an act of improvising -- even though it was when you first played it. Lots of soloists start a solo completely improvised, but they might repeat parts of that same solo the next time, and might continue to refine the solo over time to where it might be very similar from one performance to another.  I find myself doing that a lot, until I get tired of the solo and then start the process over from scratch.

Also: There are certain conventions, or rules, that an improvisors abide by, like following the chord progressions, or playing set riffs. There's mention of pentatonic scales as a template, for instance.
...

This is true for straight-ahead jazz, but not for free jazz. And as straight ahead jazz has evolved, the rules have become more lenient, and the underlying chords will often have substitutions that may also be improvised, keeping all the players very much on their toes. But jazz isn't the only contemporary music that has improvised solos, with each style having its own set of sometimes-followed rules. Blues, Country, Bluegrass, Rock, Latin, and others usually include improvised solos.

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Offline Angie

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #15 on: July 14, 2020, 09:33:07 AM »
For me, improvisation has something to do with feeling. What do I feel with this music, what do I want to tell.  You bring your own personality into what you play. That is why it is fun to do that. You can simply tell freely what you want.
The question is how do you make it sound good? In my opinion, you should already have the theory in your head to the point where you don't have to think about what kind of sounds you can play. I don't believe that you can only do this by pure hearing, unless you a) know the piece and b) try it again and again, which sounds good and then remember it. But that is no improvising in my eyes, because you don't play the music spontaneously.


Angie

Offline SlimHeilpern

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #16 on: July 14, 2020, 10:12:12 AM »
For me, improvisation has something to do with feeling. What do I feel with this music, what do I want to tell.  You bring your own personality into what you play. That is why it is fun to do that. You can simply tell freely what you want.
...

Exactly! Having something to say has got to be the most important part of improvisation, otherwise it falls flat (no pun intended). It's an outlet for your emotions combined with musical cleverness. One without the other is plain boring (to me).

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Offline Grizzly

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #17 on: July 14, 2020, 12:29:32 PM »
For me, improvisation has something to do with feeling. What do I feel with this music, what do I want to tell.  You bring your own personality into what you play. That is why it is fun to do that. You can simply tell freely what you want.
...

Exactly! Having something to say has got to be the most important part of improvisation, otherwise it falls flat (no pun intended). It's an outlet for your emotions combined with musical cleverness. One without the other is plain boring (to me).

- Slim
Yes, yes, to both of you. Improv is all those things. Feeling, and having something to say, however, is true for all music to a degree, from its inception (composition) to interpretation (individuality). If there were only one version of a piece of music, we wouldn't have multiple recordings of them.

Recording is both boon and bane. It has made music much more accessible to many more people, but in some ways it carves in stone (vinyl, pixels, whatever) a perfectly edited version that becomes the gold standard in some people's minds. Even recorded improvisations become frozen in the amber of time. Let this be an argument for live performance.

Tom
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Offline Swaggerton

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #18 on: July 14, 2020, 03:10:03 PM »
One of the reasons I started playing the chromatic is because of how good I got at improvising on diatonic, but wanted to be able to improvise on a wider selection of music. What I found is that I've had to learn a lot more about playing & understanding music than what I could learn with a diatonic, but I love it and am getting better every day. For me, the challenge of it is fun.

Offline Angie

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #19 on: July 26, 2020, 12:00:06 PM »
Of course improvisation is something you add to an existing melody. But: how do you get it to sound good? Without knowledge of harmony, it is doomed to failure.
My problem is that I have always played only by notes with the flute. I have it so deep inside me that I don't dare to play freely. Apart from the fact that I don't know what sounds good. Just playing in the same key of the melody is probably not enough to improvise.


Offline ejacob4

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #20 on: July 26, 2020, 12:33:50 PM »
Decades ago, my first real writing teacher taught me two things: 1. You cannot learn to have a voice, you are one. 2. Some days you will like you, and some you will not.

Sooner or later we slip, stop pretending, and become ourselves. Maybe it’s new, or maybe some forgotten scrap of something we patch into now.

Sometimes we just become our own McGuyver, solving the problem the piece presents, and it changes, because it lives that way.

That said, sometimes when I slip, I like me. Sometimes I don’t. Either way, it was still me.

Improvisation is not the soul preview of an artistic elite. It is the human condition.

Best regards,
Ed

Offline Grizzly

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #21 on: July 26, 2020, 12:56:02 PM »
Of course improvisation is something you add to an existing melody. But: how do you get it to sound good? Without knowledge of harmony, it is doomed to failure.
My problem is that I have always played only by notes with the flute. I have it so deep inside me that I don't dare to play freely. Apart from the fact that I don't know what sounds good. Just playing in the same key of the melody is probably not enough to improvise.
As a fellow flutist, I can relate. I can play fills within a melody, scale patterns and the like, and sometimes hear a harmony part that mostly works. But what I've tried with more success is to have sheet music where the chord names are written above the melody notes where they belong, then substitute notes from said chords in place of melody notes. Add a little rhythmic interest, and Bob's your uncle. Not very original or innovative, but it gets me through. I'm nowhere near as good doing it on harmonica.

Tom
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Offline SlideMeister

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #22 on: July 26, 2020, 01:02:14 PM »
If what YOU determine to be "improvisation" sounds good to you, but nobody buys your music, or comes out to hear you play, consensus (often associated with "reality") would indicate that you really ain't all that good.  :P  IMO, of course :)
« Last Edit: July 26, 2020, 01:04:39 PM by Age »

Offline Angie

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #23 on: July 26, 2020, 01:32:21 PM »
The problem is, I can't even make it sound good to me.
 I'm so fixated on knowing how the theory works that it seems impossible for me to just go ahead and play. It's hard to explain....

Offline SlideMeister

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #24 on: July 26, 2020, 01:41:48 PM »
I'm pretty sure the simple rule is: any note that's part of the particular chord that the music is in will work. (at least that's what I've come to believe) but what do I know; I still can't read music. :P

Offline Angie

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #25 on: July 26, 2020, 01:53:11 PM »
Ha ha AJ, but you can.
 Yeah, I know about the chords... maybe I should just play more than read.

@Grizzly Thank you, I'll sit down  and try again.

Angie

Offline ejacob4

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #26 on: July 26, 2020, 01:59:09 PM »
The problem is, I can't even make it sound good to me.
 I'm so fixated on knowing how the theory works that it seems impossible for me to just go ahead and play. It's hard to explain....
I got it. Maybe time. There’s this thing in writing where you have to write a million words to stop thinking, calculating, pretending, and just tell the story or sing the song. Could be that way. Could be something else.

You are not alone.

Best regards,
Ed

Offline vid wes

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #27 on: July 26, 2020, 02:47:03 PM »
I'm pretty sure the simple rule is: any note that's part of the particular chord that the music is in will work. (at least that's what I've come to believe) but what do I know; I still can't read music. :P

Yes and no.  Chord tones sound good on downbeats.  Non-chord tones do not sound good on downbeats.

Not being able to read music is besides the point.  Your ear is guiding you.

Offline Angie

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #28 on: July 26, 2020, 03:07:49 PM »
Decades ago, my first real writing teacher taught me two things: 1. You cannot learn to have a voice, you are one. 2. Some days you will like you, and some you will not.

Sooner or later we slip, stop pretending, and become ourselves. Maybe it’s new, or maybe some forgotten scrap of something we patch into now.

Sometimes we just become our own McGuyver, solving the problem the piece presents, and it changes, because it lives that way.

That said, sometimes when I slip, I like me. Sometimes I don’t. Either way, it was still me.

Improvisation is not the soul preview of an artistic elite. It is the human condition.

Best regards,
Ed

I sometimes have the feeling that talking about improvisation is psychology at its highest level. :D

You wrote that wonderfully... :)

Angie

Offline SlideMeister

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Re: Improvisation (the next step up)
« Reply #29 on: July 26, 2020, 03:55:19 PM »
I'm pretty sure the simple rule is: any note that's part of the particular chord that the music is in will work. (at least that's what I've come to believe) but what do I know; I still can't read music. :P

Yes and no.  Chord tones sound good on downbeats.  Non-chord tones do not sound good on downbeats.

Not being able to read music is besides the point.  Your ear is guiding you.

So, in other words, I was close! ;D
Now all I gotta do is figure out why my improv sux! ;D